Novo Nordisk rolls out authorized insulin generics, following similar moves by Lilly, Sanofi

Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk is following its rivals' suits by offering cheaper authorized generics of its NovoLog insulin in the U.S. and a $99 monthly supply program. (Novo Nordisk)

The Big Three insulin makers have now finally all come up with plans to lower their insulin prices amid mounting criticism over their high costs in the U.S.

Novo Nordisk is the last one to join rivals and major insulin providers Eli Lilly and Sanofi in making a cost-cutting move. The Danish company will offer authorized generics of its NovoLog brands at a 50% discount from their originators, it said Friday.

In addition, Novo will introduce a $99 cash card program, through which patients, regardless their insurance status, can buy three vials or two packs of FlexPen or FlexTouch at any combination of analog insulins for a flat cost of $99. The amount is enough to cover a month’s supply for most diabetes patients.

Both programs will officially launch in January 2020, Novo said.

Lilly kicked things off in March by unveiling a generic version of its Humalog insulin also at half the price of its brand and started selling it in May. Lantus maker Sanofi soon followed suit in April by expanding the Insulin Valyou Savings Program, which lowers the cost of its insulin products to $99 per month.

RELATED: Lilly answers insulin price-hike critics with 50% off Humalog generic

Sanofi, Lilly and Novo have long faced criticism over rising insulin costs, leading to closely watched Senate drug pricing hearings earlier this year that also touched on insulins. The drugmakers have worked to pin the blame on pharmacy benefits managers by pointing to declines in their products’ realized price, despite significant list-price increases.

Accordingly, the three companies have all slipped calls for systematic changes into their respective pricing announcements.

RELATED: Novo's Ozempic launch kicks into gear ahead of oral semaglutide FDA decision

“While we will continue to do what we can to help address affordability challenges in the short-term, changes within the system are required to make sustainable and meaningful affordability a reality,” Novo said in its Friday statement. Specifically, “more needs to be done to improve how insurance benefits cover vital medicines, especially through high deductible health plans,” it said.

Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk is pushing for adoption of newer GLP-1 diabetes drugs to drive growth. Its older blockbuster Victoza and newcomer Ozempic together racked up DKK 14.89 billion ($2.20 billion) in first-half 2019 sales, representing 24% year-over-year growth. Oral semaglutide, which shares the same ingredient as injectable Ozempic and bears big sales hopes, is expected to receive an FDA decision on Sept. 20.